Meet us on:
Welcome to Read Print! Sign in with
or
to get started!
 
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "But then there's a moment like tonight, a profound and transcendent experience, the feeling as if a door has opened, and it's all because of that instrument, that incredible, magical instrument."
     

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

    Never miss a good book again! Follow Read Print on Twitter

    Chapter 69

    • Rate it:
    • 1 Favorite on Read Print
    Launch Reading Mode Next Chapter
    Chapter 70
    Previous Chapter
    The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice.
    --Pudd'nhead Wilsons's New Calendar.

    There isn't a Parallel of Latitude but thinks it would have been the
    Equator if it had had its rights.
    --Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

    Next to Mr. Rhodes, to me the most interesting convulsion of nature in
    South Africa was the diamond-crater. The Rand gold fields are a
    stupendous marvel, and they make all other gold fields small, but I was
    not a stranger to gold-mining; the veldt was a noble thing to see, but it
    was only another and lovelier variety of our Great Plains; the natives
    were very far from being uninteresting, but they were not new; and as for
    the towns, I could find my way without a guide through the most of them
    because I had learned the streets, under other names, in towns just like
    them in other lands; but the diamond mine was a wholly fresh thing, a
    splendid and absorbing novelty. Very few people in the world have seen
    the diamond in its home. It has but three or four homes in the world,
    whereas gold has a million. It is worth while to journey around the
    globe to see anything which can truthfully be called a novelty, and the
    diamond mine is the greatest and most select and restricted novelty which
    the globe has in stock.

    The Kimberley diamond deposits were discovered about 1869, I think. When
    everything is taken into consideration, the wonder is that they were not
    discovered five thousand years ago and made familiar to the African world
    for the rest of time. For this reason the first diamonds were found on
    the surface of the ground. They were smooth and limpid, and in the
    sunlight they vomited fire. They were the very things which an African
    savage of any era would value above every other thing in the world
    excepting a glass bead. For two or three centuries we have been buying
    his lands, his cattle, his neighbor, and any other thing he had for sale,
    for glass beads and so it is strange that he was indifferent to the
    diamonds--for he must have pickets them up many and many a time. It
    would not occur to him to try to sell them to whites, of course, since
    the whites already had plenty of glass beads, and more fashionably
    shaped, too, than these; but one would think that the poorer sort of
    black, who could not afford real glass, would have been humbly content to
    decorate himself with the imitation, and that presently the white trader
    would notice the things, and dimly suspect, and carry some of them home,
    and find out what they were, and at once empty a multitude of
    fortune-hunters into Africa. There are many strange things in human
    history; one of the strangest is that the sparkling diamonds laid there
    so long without exciting any one's interest.

    The revelation came at last by accident. In a Boer's hut out in the wide
    solitude of the plains, a traveling stranger noticed a child playing with
    a bright object, and was told it was a piece of glass which had been
    found in the veldt. The stranger bought it for a trifle and carried it
    away; and being without honor, made another stranger believe it was a
    diamond, and so got $125 out of him for it, and was as pleased with
    himself as if he had done a righteous thing. In Paris the wronged
    stranger sold it to a pawnshop for $10,000, who sold it to a countess for
    $90,000, who sold it to a brewer for $800;000, who traded it to a king
    for a dukedom and a pedigree, and the king "put it up the spout."
    --[handwritten note: "From the Greek meaning 'pawned it.'" M.T.]--I know
    these particulars to be correct.

    The news flew around, and the South African diamond-boom began. The
    original traveler--the dishonest one--now remembered that he had once
    seen a Boer teamster chocking his wagon-wheel on a steep grade with a
    diamond as large as a football, and he laid aside his occupations and
    started out to hunt for it, but not with the intention of cheating
    anybody out of $125 with it, for he had reformed.

    We now come to matters more didactic. Diamonds are not imbedded in rock
    ledges fifty miles long, like the Johannesburg gold, but are distributed
    through the rubbish of a filled-up well, so to speak. The well is rich,
    its walls are sharply defined; outside of the walls are no diamonds. The
    well is a crater, and a large one. Before it had been meddled with, its
    surface was even with the level plain, and there was no sign to suggest
    that it was there. The pasturage covering the surface of the Kimberley
    crater was sufficient for the support of a cow, and the pasturage
    underneath was sufficient for the support of a kingdom; but the cow did
    not know it, and lost her chance.

    The Kimberley crater is roomy enough to admit the Roman Coliseum; the
    bottom of the crater has not been reached, and no one can tell how far
    down in the bowels of the earth it goes. Originally, it was a
    perpendicular hole packed solidly full of blue rock or cement, and
    scattered through that blue mass, like raisins in a pudding, were the
    diamonds. As deep down in the earth as the blue stuff extends, so deep
    will the diamonds be found.

    There are three or four other celebrated craters near by a circle three
    miles in diameter would enclose them all. They are owned by the De Beers
    Company, a consolidation of diamond properties arranged by Mr. Rhodes
    twelve or fourteen years ago. The De Beers owns other craters; they are
    under the grass, but the De Beers knows where they are, and will open
    them some day, if the market should require it.

    Originally, the diamond deposits were the property of the Orange Free
    State; but a judicious "rectification" of the boundary line shifted them
    over into the British territory of Cape Colony. A high official of the
    Free State told me that the sum of $4,00,000 was handed to his
    commonwealth as a compromise, or indemnity, or something of the sort, and
    that he thought his commonwealth did wisely to take the money and keep
    out of a dispute, since the power was all on the one side and the
    weakness all on the other. The De Beers Company dig out $400,000 worth
    of diamonds per week, now. The Cape got the territory, but no profit;
    for Mr. Rhodes and the Rothschilds and the other De Beers people own the
    mines, and they pay no taxes.

    In our day the mines are worked upon scientific principles, under the
    guidance of the ablest mining-engineering talent procurable in America.
    There are elaborate works for reducing the blue rock and passing it
    through one process after another until every diamond it contains has
    been hunted down and secured. I watched the "concentrators" at work big
    tanks containing mud and water and invisible diamonds--and was told that
    each could stir and churn and properly treat 300 car-loads of mud per day
    1,600 pounds to the car-load--and reduce it to 3 car-loads of slush. I
    saw the 3 carloads of slush taken to the "pulsators" and there reduced to
    quarter of a load of nice clean dark-colored sand. Then I followed it to
    the sorting tables and saw the men deftly and swiftly spread it out and
    brush it about and seize the diamonds as they showed up. I assisted, and
    once I found a diamond half as large as an almond. It is an exciting
    kind of fishing, and you feel a fine thrill of pleasure every time you
    detect the glow of one of those limpid pebbles through the veil of dark
    sand. I would like to spend my Saturday holidays in that charming sport
    every now and then. Of course there are disappointments. Sometimes you
    find a diamond which is not a diamond; it is only a quartz crystal or
    some such worthless thing. The expert can generally distinguish it from
    the precious stone which it is counterfeiting; but if he is in doubt he
    lays it on a flatiron and hits it with a sledgehammer. If it is a
    diamond it holds its own; if it is anything else, it is reduced to
    powder. I liked that experiment very much, and did not tire of
    repetitions of it. It was full of enjoyable apprehensions, unmarred by
    any personal sense of risk. The De Beers concern treats 8;000 carloads
    --about 6,000 tons--of blue rock per day, and the result is three pounds of
    diamonds. Value, uncut, $50,000 to $70,000. After cutting, they will
    weigh considerably less than a pound, but will be worth four or five
    times as much as they were before.

    All the plain around that region is spread over, a foot deep, with blue
    rock, placed there by the Company, and looks like a plowed field.
    Exposure for a length of time make the rock easier to work than it is
    when it comes out of the mine. If mining should cease now, the supply of
    rock spread over those fields would furnish the usual 8,000 car-loads per
    day to the separating works during three years. The fields are fenced
    and watched; and at night they are under the constant inspection of lofty
    electric searchlight. They contain fifty or sixty million dollars'
    worth' of diamonds, and there is an abundance of enterprising thieves
    around.

    In the dirt of the Kimberley streets there is much hidden wealth. Some
    time ago the people were granted the privilege of a free wash-up. There
    was a general rush, the work was done with thoroughness, and a good
    harvest of diamonds was gathered.

    The deep mining is done by natives. There are many hundreds of them.
    They live in quarters built around the inside of a great compound. They
    are a jolly and good-natured lot, and accommodating. They performed a
    war-dance for us, which was the wildest exhibition I have ever seen.
    They are not allowed outside of the compound during their term of service
    three months, I think it, is, as a rule. They go down the shaft, stand
    their watch, come up again, are searched, and go to bed or to their
    amusements in the compound; and this routine they repeat, day in and day
    out.

    It is thought that they do not now steal many diamonds successfully.
    They used to swallow them, and find other ways of concealing them, but
    the white man found ways of beating their various games. One man cut his
    leg and shoved a diamond into the wound, but even that project did not
    succeed. When they find a fine large diamond they are more likely to
    report it than to steal it, for in the former case they get a reward, and
    in the latter they are quite apt to merely get into trouble. Some years
    ago, in a mine not owned by the De Beers, a black found what has been
    claimed to be the largest diamond known to the world's history; and, as a
    reward he was released from service and given a blanket, a horse, and
    five hundred dollars. It made him a Vanderbilt. He could buy four
    wives, and have money left. Four wives are an ample support for a
    native. With four wives he is wholly independent, and need never do a
    stroke of work again.

    That great diamond weighs 97l carats. Some say it is as big as a piece
    of alum, others say it is as large as a bite of rock candy, but the best
    authorities agree that it is almost exactly the size of a chunk of ice.
    But those details are not important; and in my opinion not trustworthy.
    It has a flaw in it, otherwise it would be of incredible value. As it
    is, it is held to be worth $2,000,000. After cutting it ought to be
    worth from $5,000,000 to $8,000,000, therefore persons desiring to save
    money should buy it now. It is owned by a syndicate, and apparently
    there is no satisfactory market for it. It is earning nothing; it is
    eating its head off. Up to this time it has made nobody rich but the
    native who found it.

    He found it in a mine which was being worked by contract. That is to
    say, a company had bought the privilege of taking from the mine 5,000,000
    carloads of blue-rock, for a sum down and a royalty. Their speculation
    had not paid; but on the very day that their privilege ran out that
    native found the $2,000,000-diamond and handed it over to them. Even the
    diamond culture is not without its romantic episodes.

    The Koh-i-Noor is a large diamond, and valuable; but it cannot compete in
    these matters with three which--according to legend--are among the crown
    trinkets of Portugal and Russia. One of these is held to be worth
    $20,000,000; another, $25,000,000, and the third something over
    $28,000,000.

    Those are truly wonderful diamonds, whether they exist or not; and yet
    they are of but little importance by comparison with the one wherewith
    the Boer wagoner chocked his wheel on that steep grade as heretofore
    referred to. In Kimberley I had some conversation with the man who saw
    the Boer do that--an incident which had occurred twenty-seven or
    twenty-eight years before I had my talk with him. He assured me that
    that diamond's value could have been over a billion dollars, but not
    under it. I believed him, because he had devoted twenty-seven years to
    hunting for it, and was, in a position to know.

    A fitting and interesting finish to an examination of the tedious and
    laborious and costly processes whereby the diamonds are gotten out of the
    deeps of the earth and freed from the base stuffs which imprison them is
    the visit to the De Beers offices in the town of Kimberley, where the
    result of each day's mining is brought every day, and, weighed, assorted,
    valued, and deposited in safes against shipping-day. An unknown and
    unaccredited person cannot, get into that place; and it seemed apparent
    from the generous supply of warning and protective and prohibitory signs
    that were posted all about, that not even the known and accredited can
    steal diamonds there without inconvenience.

    We saw the day's output--shining little nests of diamonds, distributed a
    foot apart, along a counter, each nest reposing upon a sheet of white
    paper. That day's catch was about $70,000 worth. In the course of a
    year half a ton of diamonds pass under the scales there and sleep on that
    counter; the resulting money is $18,000,000 or $20,000,000. Profit,
    about $12,000,000.

    Young girls were doing the sorting--a nice, clean, dainty, and probably
    distressing employment. Every day ducal incomes sift and sparkle through
    the fingers of those young girls; yet they go to bed at night as poor as
    they were when they got up in the morning. The same thing next day, and
    all the days.

    They are beautiful things, those diamonds, in their native state. They
    are of various shapes; they have flat surfaces, rounded borders, and
    never a sharp edge. They are of all colors and shades of color, from
    dewdrop white to actual black; and their smooth and rounded surfaces and
    contours, variety of color, and transparent limpidity make them look like
    piles of assorted candies. A very light straw color is their commonest
    tint. It seemed to me that these uncut gems must be more beautiful than
    any cut ones could be; but when a collection of cut ones was brought out,
    I saw my mistake. Nothing is so beautiful as a rose diamond with the
    light playing through it, except that uncostly thing which is just like
    it--wavy sea-water with the sunlight playing through it and striking a
    white-sand bottom.

    Before the middle of July we reached Cape Town, and the end of our
    African journeyings. And well satisfied; for, towering above us was
    Table Mountain--a reminder that we had now seen each and all of the great
    features of South Africa except Mr. Cecil Rhodes. I realize that that is
    a large exception. I know quite well that whether Mr. Rhodes is the
    lofty and worshipful patriot and statesman that multitudes believe him to
    be, or Satan come again, as the rest of the world account him, he is
    still the most imposing figure in the British empire outside of England.
    When he stands on the Cape of Good Hope, his shadow falls to the Zambesi.
    He is the only colonial in the British dominions whose goings and comings
    are chronicled and discussed under all the globe's meridians, and whose
    speeches, unclipped, are cabled from the ends of the earth; and he is the
    only unroyal outsider whose arrival in London can compete for attention
    with an eclipse.

    That he is an extraordinary man, and not an accident of fortune, not even
    his dearest South African enemies were willing to deny, so far as I heard
    them testify. The whole South African world seemed to stand in a kind of
    shuddering awe of him, friend and enemy alike. It was as if he were
    deputy-God on the one side, deputy-Satan on the other, proprietor of the
    people, able to make them or ruin them by his breath, worshiped by many,
    hated by many, but blasphemed by none among the judicious, and even by
    the indiscreet in guarded whispers only.

    What is the secret of his formidable supremacy? One says it is his
    prodigious wealth--a wealth whose drippings in salaries and in other ways
    support multitudes and make them his interested and loyal vassals;
    another says it is his personal magnetism and his persuasive tongue, and
    that these hypnotize and make happy slaves of all that drift within the
    circle of their influence; another says it is his majestic ideas, his
    vast schemes for the territorial aggrandizement of England, his patriotic
    and unselfish ambition to spread her beneficent protection and her just
    rule over the pagan wastes of Africa and make luminous the African
    darkness with the glory of her name; and another says he wants the earth
    and wants it for his own, and that the belief that he will get it and let
    his friends in on the ground floor is the secret that rivets so many eyes
    upon him and keeps him in the zenith where the view is unobstructed.

    One may take his choice. They are all the same price. One fact is sure:
    he keeps his prominence and a vast following, no matter what he does. He
    "deceives" the Duke of Fife--it is the Duke's word--but that does not
    destroy the Duke's loyalty to him. He tricks the Reformers into immense
    trouble with his Raid, but the most of them believe he meant well. He
    weeps over the harshly--taxed Johannesburgers and makes them his friends;
    at the same time he taxes his Charter-settlers 50 per cent., and so wins
    their affection and their confidence that they are squelched with despair
    at every rumor that the Charter is to be annulled. He raids and robs and
    slays and enslaves the Matabele and gets worlds of Charter-Christian
    applause for it. He has beguiled England into buying Charter waste paper
    for Bank of England notes, ton for ton, and the ravished still burn
    incense to him as the Eventual God of Plenty. He has done everything he
    could think of to pull himself down to the ground; he has done more than
    enough to pull sixteen common-run great men down; yet there he stands, to
    this day, upon his dizzy summit under the dome of the sky, an apparent
    permanency, the marvel of the time, the mystery of the age, an Archangel
    with wings to half the world, Satan with a tail to the other half.

    I admire him, I frankly confess it; and when his time comes I shall buy a
    piece of the rope for a keepsake.
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 70
    Previous Chapter
    If you're writing a Mark Twain essay and need some advice, post your Mark Twain essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

    Top 5 Authors

    Top 5 Books

    Book Status
    Finished
    Want to read
    Abandoned

    Are you sure you want to leave this group?